31 October 2021 marked the opening of COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, hosted in Glasgow. 

Public Health Scotland (PHS) has worked with stakeholders to ensure we are ready to play our part in supporting the safe and successful delivery of the conference. Our top priority is protecting the health of the people of Scotland, as well as COP26’s participants.

Working with organisers, the UK Government, Scottish Government, NHS boards and other public health bodies, PHS will be conducting enhanced health surveillance throughout the period to identify any health protection issues. If a public health risk is identified, PHS, NHS Boards and other stakeholders will jointly undertake investigations and appropriate action. By combining national oversight and expertise with local knowledge, we are confident that any health protection risks are addressed.

Climate change is itself a public health issue, which impacts across the foundations of community health and wellbeing: on the places we live and work, our access to clean and green spaces, food sustainability, water and sanitation. Yet the actions we can take to mitigate climate change also represent opportunities to address the wider health, social and economic inequalities Scotland faces. In collaboration with our partners and communities we are working towards a Scotland where everybody thrives, supported by a green and inclusive economy, access to active travel options, high quality housing, greenspace and sustainable places.

PHS’s mission is to lay a solid foundation that supports long-lasting good health and wellbeing for all our communities. The discussions and decisions taken at COP26 will shape our cross-organisational approach to climate change for the months and years to come.

Angela Leitch, Chief Executive of PHS, said:

"Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges facing Scotland and the world today. The health of the planet and human health are inextricably linked and with continued environmental degradation there’s a significant threat to population health. 

"This is especially true within the world’s most disadvantaged communities where the worst effects of climate change are invariably felt. Taking the necessary action to protect the environment will therefore help protect and improve health now and for future generations. 

"COP26 presents a real opportunity to drive forward the changes necessary. PHS is working to support the safe and successful delivery of the event and contribute to the action required for Scotland to reach net zero. 

"Responding effectively will require strong collaborative leadership, integrated policymaking, and the same level of commitment and joint working that we have seen over the past 18 months in our response to COVID-19".

Last updated: 06 October 2022